After a somewhat shaky start to the second season, Revenge’s crackling winter finale proves the show still has scheming to burn. All the plot points so laboriously placed throughout the season finally snapped into place, fitting together like a multi-layered puzzle designed for mutually assured Hamptons destruction. The best part? It feels like the fun might just be getting started.
The setpiece for all of this revenge was Daniel’s attempt to wrestle the reins of Grayson Global from his father, a plot that has been building the entire season with variable returns along the way. A corporate takeover on many shows would be a boring, stilted affair full of board rooms and faceless white men. On Revenge, it’s the opportunity for so many twists, turns, double crosses, and broken promises that it will make your head spin. The gist: Emily and Aiden want Daniel to take over control, and Victoria and Conrad want the opposite. Cue fireworks! Complicating matters is Daniel’s leverage in the whole deal—the acquisition of Nolan’s company, Nolcorp—and the Initiative’s desire to do whatever necessary to be in control of whoever is in charge, whether that be Conrad or Daniel.
Along the way, Aiden gets ousted, Ashley gets dumped, Nolan gets screwed, the Initiative gets a new puppet to control, and the person who comes out on top of everything is the one person who seemed like the biggest goat last season: Daniel Grayson. Daniel has had a very interesting character evolution since the beginning of the season, from dutiful, naïve son to his own revenge force to be reckoned with. Although Daniel has scheming in his Grayson veins, it was actually Emily that started him on this path when she basically told him, “if you can’t beat them, join them” earlier in the season. Not only did he manage to blackmail his way to a CEO position (with a hat tip from Emily, of course) but he also managed to get one over on the show’s most beloved, Nolan, by conniving his way into a majority ownership of Nolcorp.
Tonight was truly Daniel’s coming out party, but can he stay on top? Not if Nolan has anything to say about it. Throughout this whole business with Daniel coming after Nolcorp, Nolan has been so calm it almost seemed impossible. Nolcorp is Nolan’s baby, and as much as he will do anything to help Emily avenge Daniel’s name, it always seemed just a bit unrealistic that he’d be so willing to throw his namesake away. Turns out Nolan had a backup plan all along, a plan to implode Grayson from the inside out, and it’s the thing I’m most looking forward to seeing when the show returns. Less exciting is the return of Padma the more boring CFO/love interest combo, but at least she’ll have to contend with the return of Nolan’s first (and more interesting) CFO/love interest combo, Marco. This could lead to bit of well-needed fire for her character, or at least the most mathematically-inclined televised threesome of all time if they both stick around.
The biggest surprise of the winter finale, though, was how it almost managed to make Jack and the bar plot that ate the Hamptons seem worth it. In the episode itself, it totally worked; with revenge reverberating throughout all the storylines, having a more menacing, violent version of it echoing through the blue collar plots connected the two sides of the Hamptons in a way they haven’t been since last season. Now that Jack knows Kenny and Nate are bad, and they can take their rightful place as dangerous, over-the-top antagonists, it puts a welcome ticking clock on their presence that’s been lacking. It doesn’t make up for the many episodes of awfulness that led the plot here, but it gives a bit of hope for the story going forward.
If Revenge has one big problem remaining right now, it’s that it feels like the show has lost the thread with Emily’s bigger picture a bit. Emily and Aiden are attempting to take down Grayson Global from the inside with Daniel at the helm, but it’s unclear exactly why this is the plan and exactly how they were planning on making it work. With all of the resources at Emily’s disposal, and all of the direct revenge she exacted last season, it sort of seems like she’s taking the long way around for no reason at all. Now that Daniel ousted Aiden from the board—Daniel suddenly getting savvy was not something Emily planned on, for sure—it looks like it might be up to Nolan to get Emily the results she wants, if the Initiative doesn’t get in his way first.
As for what Emily wants, it’s clearer than ever the toll her quest is taking on her. Putting her in a relationship with Aiden is a great thing for the character; it gives her an emotional ally as well as a tactical one, it allows her to show her softer side, and it reminds both her and the audience that she’ll never be normal. Even if she completes this journey and rides off in the sunset—either with Aiden or Jack or by herself—she’ll never be Amanda Clarke again. Not really. She’ll always be Emily Thorne, somewhere deep down in her soul.
- Nolan strolled into the episode with two collars, a cane, and a plan. Could this finally be the return of the awesome Nolan we all know and love (and miss)?
- The opening at the skeet shoot was gloriously filmed and edited. No other show on TV is giving pure soap like this one is on a weekly basis.
- Also great: The reverent christening scene, full of Emily’s longing looks and Jack and Amanda’s happiness, while the danger of Kenny and Nate loomed in the background.
- Fittingly, Ashley almost had to become exactly what Emily allowed her to avoid when Victoria sent her to sleep with Salvador. There is a thin line between hooker and social climber in this world.
- Murderer Matt Duncan might be the dumbest man in the entire universe, but he was worth it to see Kenny and Nate cross his name out of Carl’s address book. Just like Emily and her Grayson Global picture!
- Nolan: “Unpleasant? Pshaw. Isn’t it every man’s dream to give over 49 percent of his company to a hostile conglomerate?”